ART BY KAYTE CHIEN
By BELINDA KUO
“These expensive, these is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes,” raps Cardi B in her famous song “Bodak Yellow.”
Most people would immediately recognize Cardi B’s reference to the world-renowned French shoe brand Christian Louboutin, which features its signature red soles on its shoes. However, we never truly notice the brands of clothing people wear when we are young. As we grow older, wearing well-known brands unknowingly becomes the social norm, and not wearing the “right” trends can label you the social outcast. Surprisingly, such a pompous lyric describes the materialistic nature of American culture.
In fact, we live in such a materialistic society that the brand of our clothes sometimes determines the friends we have. Ultimately, the popular phenomenon to wear branded clothes narrows our perception of wealth and success and hinders children’s development of their own identities.
Given that modern society prioritizes superficial goals, it makes us wonder how much materialism has impacted our impression of success. According to Dictionary.com, materialism is “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.” And frankly, the modern world has perfectly and completely adopted this monism. Especially in music videos, we see artists wear expensive clothing brands and sit on expensive cars to parade their social status. In addition, Rich Kids of the Internet (@rkoi) garnered more than 377,000 followers by re-posting pictures of luxurious mansions and massive closets from affluent Instagram users.
Perhaps, people today show off lavish lifestyles because there are no “subtle” ways to show off their wealth. But the worst thing is, they continue to reinforce this flawed definition of success. Since elementary school, we have been indoctrinated to picture a successful person as a rich person who wears expensive clothing, especially suits. However, a person’s prosperity cannot be solely determined by their possessions because there is more to success than the financial aspect, such as the personal growth throughout one’s career or full attainment of one’s potential in the pursuit of his or her passion.
From our social circles to our dreams of being successful, our desire to be in the “Gucci Gang” penetrates our daily lives. Besides, how many times have you bought certain clothes because you saw your friends wearing it? With social norms at the top of our minds, we often succumb to peer pressure, crushing our individuality.
Nonetheless, we should not condemn wearing brands completely, because particular brands may highlight our identity and even represent our values. For instance, many of my friends in middle school wore Converse shoes, but as someone who always wore Nike sneakers, I felt like I did not fit in and begged my mom to get me Converse shoes. In the end, my shift in loyalty only hurt my mental well-being. I gradually suppressed my true personality, and I conformed to trends instead of finding my personal style.
Driven by my newfound goal to break away from the norm, I spent a lot of time in high school striving to build an identity that is not influenced by trends. In retrospect, I now fearlessly wear my favorite Adidas sweatpants to school for the sake of comfort rather than fitting in because of my change in attitude.
Ultimately, we as a society should address the reasoning behind our obsession with brands. Is it to fit in? Is it to show off our social status? Or is it because a brand truly reflects our style? Society should recognize that brands alone do not define who we are, and those who prefer to not wear exclusive brands or cannot afford them should not feel shameful or isolated. We should put more stress on our personal preferences rather than the impression of prestige associated with expensive purchases.
While reflecting on my past experiences, I had an epiphany on how my materialistic attitude persists to this day. Recently, I received a Michael Kors bag for my birthday, and though I was grateful, I secretly yearned for a Chanel bag. Evidently, our materialistic attitudes towards clothing can leave a deep impact on us. From a young age, we have become accustomed to seeing our friends and classmates wear branded clothes, but as a society, we should emphasize that a “Hollister” or “Abercrombie” printed on a shirt or a Converse star on a sneaker does not define one’s character. So, next time you find yourself purchasing a branded item, take a moment to reflect on the reasons why.